IBM announced at IBM Information on Demand conference a new version of IBM Mashup Center that will simplify the assembly and publishing of information across a workforce and across the Internet for consumers, constituents and customers. This IBM Software wide product that is designed to enable business and IT to work together in the harvesting of information across the enterprise including content, documents, reports and integrate capabilities that can help individuals interact with the information but also information and services across the Internet. The growing volumes of information in organizations is not easily leveraged into business efficiently can be integrated easily for use across applications.

This technology directly aligns into what I call ‘information applications’ and is a new generation of technology (See: “Information Applications: New Generation of Information Technologies”) that unifies accessibility and action to all information including content and data in a range of channels including mobile, voice, web that can be easily accessed by consumers to employees through self-service and simple methods to search, retrieve and act on information. Most importantly this technology is all about the needs of individuals to get access to information (“Information Applications: New Focus on Information Availability“). The IBM Mashup Center helps address these requirements quite readily and also helps harvest the analytics that have been built for strategic and operational purposes.

The IBM Mashup Center uses the IBM iWidget framework that provides a common technology wrapper around sources of information and capabilities that can be easily managed in a library where they can be shared and used for a wide range of needs. These iWidgets can be integrated together into composite widgets and can be easily assembled without programming or traditional application development cycles. The iWidget is a standard framework that is being published by a wide range of IBM specific software that can make it simple to bring together information from a range of products like IBM Cognos products. In fact IBM Mashup Center tightly integrates with IBM Cognos 8 Mashup Service where the range of reports, charts and other analytics can be directly available and published for consumption in IBM Mashup Centiber. IBM Cognos initially released the interfaces for this at the beginning of 2009 with the release of IBM Cognos 8 version 4 and part of what I wrote about in recent analysis of IBM BI and analytics efforts (See: "IBM Fuses New Generation of Analytics for Deeper Business Optimization").

I spent some time to review IBM Mashup Center and capabilities at the conference to see how it operates and where it can be truly used by business and not just IT. The product definitely is simple to use and can be a much simpler method to get information out than most enterprise portals. IBM WebSphere Portal Server though is a more robust environment with deeper set of capabilities in regards to customization and development capabilities and is a deeper choice for many that are looking for a centralized methods to provide applications and services in an integrated framework compared to just making information available.

IBM still has some work to accomplish to take the final aspects of availability and interactivity of information be simpler to use. For example searching across information and into iWidgets should be a standard method as is found on an Apple iPhone. As well it will be important to further integrate the IBM content management technologies so that they are more readily used for not just storage but for searching into the content for specific text and details needed to be retrieved by the user. In addition further integration with collaborative components of the IBM Lotus suite could help bring deeper value to the information. I would also hope that the mobile access across Apple, Palm and RIM devices would be simple and the Mashup framework would dynamically adapt to each of the devices unique user interfaces as Oracle has done with their approach (See: “Oracle Middleware Provides Rich Enterprise Applications to Advance Information Applications Market“).

This product is critical for organizations to address the typical problem of just sending information back and forth across email. Organizations have not been able to easily assemble and publish information across enterprise and other approaches have been more rigid and designed to be more fixed in their use and deployment. IBM methods for providing Internet type mashups into the enterprise is definitely a good approach and now it is a matter of releasing additional capabilities to meet increasing pressure on simplicity in interactions and integration across the enterprise. This release is just one piece of what IBM is doing to advance their information agenda (See: "IBM Doubles Down Again on Information Agenda at Annual Conference").